Isis Daesh Lebanon
'Islamic State, or Daesh, is not a new phenomenon. It is, like Al-Qaeda, an ideological offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.'REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

The Brussels terrorist attacks are yet another wake-up call that the civilised world is engaged in a relentless war of existence. It is a war that not only threatens the West, but presents the greatest challenge Islam has faced since the time of the Prophet Mohammed. The Muslim world and the West are still largely complacent about dealing with the root causes of extremism. Those causes are internal rather than external.

Far too often have apologists resorted to overused clichés of injustice suffered by many Muslims around the world, either through civil wars, corruption or dictatorships leading to rampant human right abuses. Human right abuses, as abhorrent as they are, are not the cause but rather the result of a deeply flawed interpretation of Islam.

That misinterpretation of Islam is at the same time leading to dictatorships, human rights abuses and terrorism. Eradicating the root causes of terrorism needs to deal with the intellectual basis that leads to it. If the Muslim world wants to defeat terrorism, it must first and foremost deal with the intellectual roots. The root causes of Sunni Islamist extremism is the Muslim Brotherhood.

The fight for the heart and soul of Islam will be a long one.

Islamic State, or Daesh, is not a new phenomenon. It is, like Al Qaeda, an ideological offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. The leader of Daesh himself was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The father of global jihad and Osama bin Laden's teacher, Abdullah Azzam started his terrorist career within the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Qaeda's current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The modern ideological root of Islamist terrorism is the Muslim Brotherhood.

The brutality of the Muslim Brotherhood and its offspring is only matched by the Shia Muslim Hezbollah, which has also carried out numerous terrorist attacks around the world, including in Europe. Both of them are the Middle East's equivalent of National Socialism and both of them cannot co-exist with a civilised way of life.

Brussels attacks
Injured people are seen at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near BrusselsReuters

Several Arab countries have designated both organisations as terrorist groups. This is a very important first step in tackling the ideological root causes of Islamist extremism. But much more needs to be done.

Unimaginable damage has been inflicted on Islam as a way of life by the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideologues, many of whom continue to live and preach freely in Europe. They even join the chorus of those condemning the terrorist attacks like those in Brussels.

The Arab world has largely woken up to the reality that the Muslim Brotherhood is not only effective at propagating hate speech, but is equally good at laundering its reputation through hollow condemnation of terrorist attacks. That is why the tolerance for this organisation within the Arab world has run out. Europe must now take similar decisive action in banning their activities. Half-hearted approaches can no longer work.

I find it extremely distressing that, as a Muslim, the teachings of the extremist Islamists, both Sunni and Shia, are louder than any other. Islam is now defined by extremist teaching. Irreparable damage is being inflicted on Islam on a daily basis. The voice of Muslim moderation is faint, and in many cases non-existent.

The fight for the heart and soul of Islam will be a long one. The world will defeat terrorism only when the moderates of the Muslim world win that battle. Without the help of Europe and the US, we will all be held hostage by a cult of death as efficient at metamorphosing into new groups as it is at justifying the killing of people.

Only when the world unites in tackling the intellectual roots of extremist Islamism will we be able to defeat groups like Daesh, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. And only when those groups are defeated and their ideologies eradicated will the Muslim world be saved from rampant human right abuses. The battle for world peace starts by defeating the Muslim versions of National Socialism. Europe has a large responsibility to help, but the primary responsibility lies with the Arabs.


Ghanem Nuseibeh is founder of Cornerstone Global Associates and a senior visiting fellow at Kings College, London.